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Choosing Between Gifts and Bequests: How Taxes Affect the Timing of Wealth Transfers

  • David Joulfaian

A number of theories have been advanced to explain the size and timing of intergenerational transfers. One factor only recently explored is the effects of taxes, and in particular the estate tax, on such transfers. This paper represents the first attempt to explore how capital gains and gift taxes, in addition to the estate tax, interact to influence incentives in the timing of transfers. Using estate tax data and exploiting variations in state inheritance, gift, and capital gains tax rates, this paper finds taxes to be an important consideration in the choice between gifts and bequests. In particular, each of capital gains and gift taxes are found to be important determinants of the timing of transfers. These findings are robust to a number of specifications that control for borrowing, charitable bequests, marital status, and the portfolio composition of wealth transfers.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11025.

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Date of creation: Jan 2005
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Publication status: published as Joulfaian, David. "Choosing Between Gifts And Bequests: How Taxes Affect The Timing Of Wealth Transfers," Journal of Public Economics, 2005, v89(11-12,Dec), 2069-2091.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11025
Note: PE
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  1. David Joulfaian, 2000. "Estate Taxes and Charitable Bequests by the Wealthy," NBER Working Papers 7663, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Kathleen McGarry, 2000. "Inter Vivos Transfers or Bequests? Estate Taxes and the Timing of Parental Giving," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 14, pages 93-122 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-58, December.
  4. McGarry, Kathleen, 1999. "Inter vivos transfers and intended bequests," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(3), pages 321-351, September.
  5. Bernheim, B Douglas & Shleifer, Andrei & Summers, Lawrence H, 1985. "The Strategic Bequest Motive," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1045-76, December.
  6. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1987. "Does the Estate Tax Raise Revenue?," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 1, pages 113-138 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-77, June.
  8. James Poterba, 1997. "The Estate Tax and After-Tax Investment Returns," NBER Working Papers 6337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Page, Benjamin R., 2003. "Bequest taxes, inter vivos gifts, and the bequest motive," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(5-6), pages 1219-1229, May.
  10. Cox, Donald, 1987. "Motives for Private Income Transfers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(3), pages 508-46, June.
  11. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
  12. Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1978. "Notes on Estate Taxes, Redistribution, and the Concept of Balanced Growth Path Incidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages S137-50, April.
  13. Balcer, Yves & Judd, Kenneth L, 1987. " Effects of Capital Gains Taxation on Life-Cycle Investment and Portfolio Management," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 42(3), pages 743-58, July.
  14. William G. Gale & Joel B. Slemrod, 2001. "Rethinking the Estate and Gift Tax: Overview," NBER Working Papers 8205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Joulfaian, David, 2000. "Taxing Wealth Transfers and Its Behavioral Consequences," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 4), pages 933-58, December.
  16. Adams, James D., 1978. "Equalization of true gift and estate tax rates," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 59-71, February.
  17. James Poterba, 1998. "Estate and Gift Taxes and Incentives for Inter Vivos Giving in the United States," NBER Working Papers 6842, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Lee, Lung-fei & Maddala, G S & Trost, R P, 1980. "Asymptotic Covariance Matrices of Two-Stage Probit and Two-Stage Tobit Methods for Simultaneous Equations Models with Selectivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(2), pages 491-503, March.
  19. Auten, Gerald & Joulfaian, David, 2001. "Bequest taxes and capital gains realizations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 213-229, August.
  20. Kuehlwein, Michael, 1994. "The non-equalization of true gift and estate tax rates," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 319-323, February.
  21. Boskin, Michael J., 1976. "Estate taxation and charitable bequests," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(1-2), pages 27-56.
  22. Bernheim, B. Douglas & Lemke, Robert J. & Scholz, John Karl, 2004. "Do estate and gift taxes affect the timing of private transfers?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2617-2634, December.
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